Pickled Ramps

“What the f&@$ are ramps?”

That was his second question.  The first question, asked while I was pickling, “what are you up to?”

Ramps (allium tricoccum) are not that well known outside of the area, more specifically, I’m not sure they are that well known in NYC outside of the regular patrons of the Union Square Greenmarket.  They grow along the east coast from South Carolina to Quebec.  There are even Ramp Festivals down south (thanks wikipedia!).

So, what the f&#@ are ramps?  Wild leeks.  As you can imagine, they have a little onion flavor and byte with hints of garlic.  That’s not really a stretch since they are all in the same family.

I have to say I’m not a huge fan, and I’m using the term as applied to fanatics.  The leaves are great in scrambled eggs, but the fanatics in the food culture here take it a little too far.  I noticed this last year when ramps turned up on every menu as the “it” vegetable and appeared on pizzas, in ravioli, and everything else a chef could imagine.

Josh Ozersky wrote an good article about this in Time magazine last month.  He covers this perfectly with the following quote:

What makes ramps ramps is not their flavor, you see, but their cultural value. David Kamp, the author of The Food Snob’s Dictionary, offers this explanation to TIME: “The ramp is not a salad green, but it is a green vegetable, and it is the first legitimately green thing that appears from the ground in April, a month that, in terms of farm yield, is otherwise an extension of winter. For food snobs, therefore, ramps are over celebrated and overly scrutinized, like the first ballgame played in April, even with 161 more games ahead.”

I tend to like Josh Ozersky work, but he was probably a year behind on the article.  Although, giving the benefit of the doubt, I suspect the article was conceived last year and he had to hold it until ramps appeared again this April.

I have not checked out the Food Snobs Dictionary.  The title lends credence, if not glorifies, certain individuals arrogance about food through superior knowledge.  There is a better term:  Food Idiots, or Fidiots!  Don’t you love it when a Fidiot says, “you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten the [insert crap] made by [latest trendy chef]”.  Somehow, we’ve all gotten by.

Even though it is ranked #1 on most top food lists, I have lived here for sixteen years and managed to survive without trucking out to Queens and spending $5 on a slice of Di Fara’s pizza.  But I digress…

Note: anyone Fidiot about to jump out of their seat and tell me Di Fara’s is in Brooklyn, don’t take the bait.

Pickled Ramps

First the brine.

Doesn’t look that appetizing, does it?  The standard Momofuku brine with kochukaru, white peppercorns, and todays new ingredient: shichimi togarashi.

Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese seven spice powder (shichi means “seven” in Japanese).  Those three years of Japanese language study in college finally paying off…

Since I planned on keeping the pickled ramps for a bit, it was necessary to separate the leaves and bulbs.

This is a bit of a teaser post.  I needed to pickle to ramps to make [spoiler alert!] ramp ranch dressing.  That’s coming up soon.

Thanks for your patience.  I needed to get the writing juices flowing again as it’s been a few weeks since the last post.  The mussels with OS and roasted brussel sprouts are in the queue, photographed and all.  It’s time to catch up.

I’m due for another big dinner meal.  Sensing some Banh Mi coming up on the horizon.  Works perfectly with the pickled phase I’m going through.


7 Responses to “Pickled Ramps”

  1. 1 thdad May 26, 2010 at 4:58 am

    Here in Korea, I have tasted a vegetable that looks remarkably similar to ramps — its called “myung-i namul” and apparently they are native to Ulleung island. It is pickled in a soy sauce based brine and is eaten with grilled or boiled pork belly.

    I don’t like them on their own, but paired with pork, they provide a nice foil.

  2. 2 Andy May 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I agree with you when you say that any cook in a kitchen should be comfortable with pickling. my girlfriend and I just picked about 5 lbs of ramps and plan on using this pickling recipe on a portion of them. Thanks for the blog sir!

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